Energy and Power Development ministry permanent secretary Partson Mbiriri last week bemoaned the region’s failure to provide sufficient energy to its consumers despite the presence of vast and diverse energy sources.
Speaking at the ongoing Regional Electricity Regulators of Southern Africa annual conference, Mbiriri said the region had adequate resources, but still remained the lowest supplier of electricity in the world to its consumers.
“Assess to electricity is key in unlocking regional economic growth, transformation, and social development through beneficiation and value addition,” he said.
“Despite our region being endowed with vast and diverse energy resources such as hydro, coal, gas and solar, regrettably we remain the world’s least connected region, our region has the lowest per capita consumption of energy in the whole world yet we have exploited energy sources, both non-renewable and renewable.”
Mbiriri said the statistics were worrisome, as only 8% of people in the region’s rural areas had access to electricity.
“Our region is facing a number of challenges with regard to electricity generation, transmission, distribution, access and price,” he said.
“Most of our rural people still depend on biomass for their main energy requirements which are cooking, heating and lightning.
“This places a huge burden on women and children and also results in environmental degradation.”
Mbiriri said about 30% of the region’s citizens had access to electricity, compared to the East African Community which had 36% and 44% for the Economic Community for West Africa States.
To mitigate power shortages, the bureaucrat said the region was embarking on a number of projects like Kariba North and South, Batoka, in Zimbabwe and Zambia and several independent power producers, which have been supported by the government by offering licences to relieve congestion on the regional grid to facilitate electricity trading by 2017.
He added that the projects were going to help to facilitate integration, trade and access to cheaper electricity in the region.
Mbiriri said his ministry was making efforts to reduce electricity consumption in the country, although it was still lagging behind.
“Zimbabwe is already implementing ZimAsset and already energy efficiency initiatives targeting to save up to 300 megawatts of power are underway,” he said.
“The measures include promoting the uptake of energy saver bulbs and light emitting diode bulbs.
“The recent introduction of pre-paid meters has also seen consumers managing their energy consumption; we have managed to install close to 530 000 pre-paid meters, but we are still need about 300 000 to get to our target.”